Dare I say it, but optimism is in the air.
The light is now visible at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Flowering bulbs are ushering in Spring. And a new administration has eased the daily onslaught of political chaos.
We all deserve a break and a deep breath. Let’s take it.
But then let’s turn our attention to the deep systemic problems we are still facing.
COVID-times has cast a bright light of awareness on how our survival and well-being are dependent upon our connection, cooperation, and care for others.
While we may have drawn closer to our immediate social circles, we have also witnessed stark manifestations of our divided society and the shocking fragility of our basic democratic institutions. We are seeing with fresh eyes the frayed extent of our social fabric and our decline in social trust – aka the “Great Othering.”
So then, when COVID ends and we can gather again, what will you do?
No, not where you will travel, or what kind of parties you throw with your friends.
But what will you do to help build social trust and reverse the seemingly downward trajectory of our nation? What will you do to build resilience and connection in your communities?
Let me help you inspire you with some stories of community and hope: The Community Lovers Guide.
Scroll through this website, and you will see a wonderful menagerie of (pre-pandemic) ways people are coming together to create a world rooted in strong communities of place: Tool banks, community kitchens, pop-up stores, cooperatives, and more.
Are you inspired yet?
You may feel that such localized and small-scale work cannot make a difference for the crises gripping our nation.
I respectfully disagree.
Coming together to shape the places where we live, such as the projects highlighted in the Community Lovers Guide, is the front-line of restoring our social fabric and our democracy. In fact, it is democracy.
It is in the ashes of our broken communities that swirl the whirlwinds of tribalism threatening our democracy.
By forging strong place-based communities we can regenerate a culture of collaboration and participation, modeling behavior on a local level that will carry upwards into our national politics.
It is in the neighborhoods where we live that lie the most fruitful opportunities to rewire our conceptions of “us” and “them” and build a more tolerant world.
One community at the time, we can take back control over our lives, inspiring hope, and building a more compassionate, inclusive, and collaborative public life.
The beauty is that we don’t need anyone’s permission to begin. We can start right now. (Or at least as soon as we clear some of these last COVID hurdles!)
Recent (but pre-pandemic) research in the United Kingdom shows that only 3% of people are involved in a neighborhood project, but 60% agreed that they were willing to work together to improve their neighborhood. I can imagine this is similar for the United States.
Wow! What incredible latent capacity resides in that 57% gap between desire and community action? It is ripe with opportunity.
So I will ask again: What are you going to do? What will be your entry into the Community Lover’s Guide?
As beat poet Gary Snyder once said, “Find your place in the world, dig in, and take responsibility from there.”
We’re not done with COVID yet, but now is the time to start planning. Throw your parties, take your trips. And then let’s get to work.
I would love to hear what you are up to. I know in my neighborhood, there is a vacant grassy sloped right-of-way that will make for a great community garden and a wonderful opportunity to cultivate community. I can’t wait to get started.